We first started working on "One" in spring of 2019. Alessandro was inspired to write some lyrics after a dispute that he had with his landlord in Athens at the time and sent them over to me in order to potentially turn them into a song together. While in Cologne, I initially just rephrased and corrected some things without changing anything about the topic of the song. Eventually though, when we got together in Italy during the summer, the song grew into something else. I kept one line that I liked a lot from the initial lyrics:
And I wish we'd be together in the darkest of times of the ways of our minds.
...and I built the rest of the lyrics around this line. The change of the topic kind of came along naturally with the development of the chords and melody, which has a sweet undertone. And of course I also drew inspiration from real-life emotions and thoughts that I had at the time of writing the song. Then, Ale came up with the line:
I know you feel like we're one, I know you keep me on track.
...which ended up turning into a prominent part of the song that captures its essence.
So what is the song about?
I like to think that whoever listens to the song can interpret it in whatever way it relates to their life or speaks to them. That being said, to me, "One" is a song about being in love and the fears and insecurities that can sometimes accompany that. It's a song about unity and feeling complete in someone else's presence, while also being aware of how fragile or fleeting these feelings can be. It's about realizing that you are, to an extent, emotionally dependent of another person. It's about feeling a strong bond and connection to someone, but being scared of how this bond could in time become corrupted or break. It's about being hesitant to let go of doubts, live in the moment, let down your guard and be vulnerable with another person, even though deep down that's all you want to do. It's basically me being a hopeless romantic but not wanting to admit it to myself, lol. To me the part of "I know you feel like we're one, I know you keep me on track" is kind of like a mantra that you tell yourself when your fears start to creep in. It's a bit like saying to yourself:
"Come on, you know this feels good, so stop trying to fight it and just enjoy the ride."
Of course love can "change through time" and sometimes good things turn into bad things and yes, nobody can guarantee you that you are not going to get hurt or disappointed. But there is also no point in ruining something good by overthinking every single thing that could potentially go wrong. So... might as well go with the flow and trust your intuition.
The Chords & Melody
When Alessandro first sent me his initial lyrics, he also sent me an idea for a chord progression which was actually inspired by Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here". So I sat on my bed in front of my shitty little keyboard in Cologne, played the chords that Alessandro suggested and improvised a vocal melody that went with the chords and lyrics. We later adjusted the melody of the verse a bit to go with the changed lyrics, but kept the melody of the chorus as I first came up with it. Then, Ale thought of creating our little "choir" sections in the song, which we call our "drops". It's basically me singing a bunch of harmonies on top of the main repeating phrase, the "mantra", as I explained it. This is when the song really started to make sense to us. Also, sidenote: It's so fun to record harmonies!
The Recording Process
We pretty much recorded everything in July, 2019, at Alessandro's place in Italy... BUT there were some complications. First of all, the only microphone that we had to record the vocals with was a borrowed one from a friend. It wasn't bad for its price, but we weren't quite satisfied with the results. But to be fair, this was also due to the fact that we recorded in an open room with no sound isolation whatsoever (it was actually just a living room). So you could still hear a lot of the reflections of the room in the recording and it just didn't sound clean and polished enough. Unfortunately though, we only realized that the sound quality wasn't good enough once we had already started the mixing process in London about a year later. (In case you don't know what the mixing process is - I will explain it in a seperate paragraph about the production of the song.) This meant that I had to record all of the vocals again; apart from the drops which we decided to keep. Thankfully by that time I had already bought my own microphone and we recorded everything in Alessandro's little home studio, this time with better sound isolation. It was quite frustrating to realize that I had to do it all over again, especially since we had already spent so much time in Italy recording different parts over and over again and choosing the nicest takes. Plus, I was worried that I wouldn't be able to do as good of a job recording my vocals as the first time around... But luckily I was able to pull it off in the end and I actually much prefer the newest vocals over my previous recordings. Ale also recorded a few of his guitar lines again in the fall of 2020 and that was it - the recording process was completed. Quite weird to think that the only live elements in the song are guitars and vocals. But hey, technology!
The Production & Post-Production
We produced the entire song in the summer of 2019 in Ale's living room in Italy. And by "we produced it" I mean that Ale did all the technical work on his computer while I just gave feedback and ideas. In general what's nice about working together is that we take every decision as a team and each one of us has something different to offer in terms of skills and ideas, so we are kind of complementing each other that way. And thankfully most of the time we have a similar vision of where we want a song to go in terms of sound and aesthetics. The production process doesn't always go smoothly though, since sometimes you get into creative slumps or you get stuck overthinking certain desicions. In the case of "One" though, after some initial hurdles, we got into a creative flow pretty quickly.
After finishing the main production of "One" that summer, we took a little break from the song and continued working on different music. Since Alessandro moved to Saudi Arabia for work in October, 2019, and soon after the pandemic started to hit in the beginning of 2020, we weren't able to see each other in person for 9 months straight. That meant that we had to keep working on the production of our other songs over Zoom, which, to be honest, was quite the pain in the ass. I couldn't properly hear the music over Zoom and it made the process of deciding what worked and what didn't a lot more difficult as well as more time consuming.
Once we finally reunited when Alessandro moved to London for his studies in September, 2020, we began the process of mixing "One".
So what is the mixing process?
To say it simply, once you have recorded everything and added all of the sounds (instruments, electronic elements etc.) that make up the song during the production process, you have to bring out the best in all of those sounds. How do you do that? For example by erasing sound frequencies that bother you, balancing out the volumes of all of your sound elements or adding effects, reverb and more. It's basically about perfecting what you already have.
So, we decided to ask a friend, who is a professional sound engineer, to help us out with the mixing process. It turned out that he was a bit too busy to work on the mixing process with us consistently, but he gave us some helpful input and advised us to look for a mixing engineer to bring out the best in our music. Long story short, we ended up working with Sebastian MUXI Muxfeldt, who is a producer, recording and mixing engineer based in Hamburg, Germany. He did a great job and was really good about taking our feedback into consideration. Once that was done, it was time for the mastering process.
So what is the mastering process?
Honestly, I don't quite get it myself, so I'm gonna skip that question haha. All I can say is that it's a further step in improving the sound of the song.
Flo Siller, who is a german mastering engineer, helped us out in this step of the post-production and did an amazing job. Don't ask me what he did exactly, but "One" really rose to another level after he did his thing on it.
The Cover Art
The covert art for our single was created by the talented greek freelance designer and illustrator Alexandra Alexandridou. Since the song is about the feeling of unity, we thought it would be nice to reimagine the symbol of yin-yang for the cover; two entities coming together as one. To represent the romantic nature of the song, we decided to create our version of the yin-yang symbol in the form of two hands holding eachother.
Hold my hand a little tighter, before letting go.
We also wanted to incorporate the colour blue, since Alessandro and I both associate the song with this colour. I guess maybe this stems from the fact that we did most of the work for the song during the summer under blue skies, or because of the melancholic undertone of "One", ...or both. So we sent Alexandra some references and she created what is now our cover art for "One".
And that's it! That's how "One" was born. We put a lot of love, work and resources into it and I'm quite proud of how it turned out. Plus, this song is the first one Alessandro and I ever released together and I associate it with many precious memories. So, it will always have a special place in my heart.
What do you think of "One"? Do you like it? Have you listened to it yet? Leave me some feedback in the comments below, I'd love to hear your thoughts or any constructive criticism you might have.